Fulton Public Schools honor retirees, service to district

Jan Bailey of Fulton Middle School named Teacher of the Year

Jan Bailey, Fulton Public School's 2013-2014 Teacher of the Year, hugs the 1991-1992 Fulton Teacher of the Year Carolyn Rankin during the district's "End of the Year Gathering" which honored Bailey, retired teachers and grant recipients. Bailey taught Rankin's grandson throughout middle school, and Rankin taught Bailey's son, Justin Peery (left), when he was in first grade. Bailey's coworkers nominated Bailey based on her work in the classroom, support of students in their personal lives and her work with the Broadcasting Club among her other attributes.

Jan Bailey, Fulton Public School's 2013-2014 Teacher of the Year, hugs the 1991-1992 Fulton Teacher of the Year Carolyn Rankin during the district's "End of the Year Gathering" which honored Bailey, retired teachers and grant recipients. Bailey taught Rankin's grandson throughout middle school, and Rankin taught Bailey's son, Justin Peery (left), when he was in first grade. Bailey's coworkers nominated Bailey based on her work in the classroom, support of students in their personal lives and her work with the Broadcasting Club among her other attributes. Photo by Brittany Ruess.

Fulton Public Schools held its End of the Year Gathering on Wednesday night, paying tribute to departing staff members and honoring the service of several others.

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Jan Bailey, Fulton Middle School teacher and recipient of the 2013-2014 Teacher of the Year Award, thanks high school science teacher Carol Robertson after being congratulated on her award Wednesday during Fulton's "End of the Year Gathering" at Fulton High School.

In the highlight of the evening, Fulton Middle School technology teacher Jan Bailey was named Fulton Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year.

Cowherd shared several comments from Bailey’s nomination.

”’(She) genuinely cares for students and builds lasting relationships.’ ‘Students come to this individual for help and advice.’ ‘Amazing teacher, amazing person,’” Cowherd quoted from the nomination. “‘Truly a category of her own.’”

For her part, Bailey was too surprised to say much.

“I’m humbled. I need a kid up here with me now, any kid,” Bailey said, pulling up her grandsons, Jared and Cohen Peery, to stand with her.

“I’m humbled,” Bailey repeated later. “There are so many amazing teachers in Fulton School District — I want to share this with them.”

The district has seven educators and staff members leaving at the end of this year, with a combined 160 years with Fulton Public Schools among them.

Connie Adams, a reading specialist at McIntire Elementary, is retiring with 24 years as an educator — 23 of them in Fulton. According to her biography, Adams has been the chair and co-chair of the PBS Committee and has served on the Leadership Committee.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed all of my years working in Fulton Public Schools,” Adams said in the event program. “I continue to believe Fulton Public Schools educate every student to the fullest of his or her ability. I relish the fact that both of my children and myself are Fulton graduates.”

Liz Books, a speech language pathologist at the high school and middle school, has been with the district for 10 years. According to her biography, Books has provided speech language therapy and testing in all the buildings within the district. Her career has included work in hospitals and schools around the world and country while her husband, Bill, was in the Army.

“Liz wants to express her thanks to the other staff … that has helped to support her,” Superintendent Jacque Cowherd said, reading from the program. “She will not be far, just across the field. … She said you are welcome to come over and sit on the deck when you need a break.”

Melanie Dowling, who has served as a special education teacher, autism consultant, transition liaison and special education process coordinator, is retiring after 24 years with the district. Dowling received the David W. White Outstanding Service in Education Award in 1995 and also is a previous recipient of the Cable in the Classroom honor.

“She is affectionately known among her peers as ‘the post-it note queen’ and as Mr. Rogers because ‘It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood!’” Cowherd read. “She will miss her school family and wishes you all the best.”

Jessie Pendergraft is retiring after 30 years in food service at Fulton High School. Pendergraft also has served as a bus aid and worked summer school. She received the Support Staff of the Quarter award in 2004.

Pendergraft’s biography included recalling an instance in which she took a nap when she got home and rushed to school when she woke up and saw the clock, only to discover “that it was 6 at night instead of 6 in the morning.”

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Families and loved ones of Fulton Public School retirees and honorees attended the district's "End of the Year Gathering" on Wednesday at Fulton High School. Evie Fischer, 1, attended to celebrate the retirement of her grandmother Janet Fischer (right), who has taught at Bush Elementary School in second and third grade classrooms for 30 years.

Janet Fisher, a third-grade teacher at Bush Elementary, is leaving after 30 years in the district. During that time, Fisher has been named as Teacher of the Quarter and has been a member of the Fulton Community Teachers Association (FCTA), Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA) and SIS.

“I had the pleasure of working with the same team of teachers for 25 years,” Fisher said in the program, specifically mentioning coworkers Mimi Curtis, Anna Braxton and Brandi Hassien. “Bush School is the best! I will miss you all.”

Jane Johnson, a fifth-grade teacher at Bush, is retiring after 20 years with the district. According to her biography, Johnson has been a member of MSTA, FCTA, Beta Sigma Phi “and now, AARP!”

“I will miss my Bush school friends and the students I have taught,” Johnson said in the program. “Teaching has kept me young.”

Rita Wentzel, who has served in a number of positions including reading recovery teacher, reading coach and reading interventionist at Bush, is leaving after 23 years with Fulton Public Schools. Wentzel received the Outstanding Service in Education Award in 1996, Teacher of the Quarter in 2002 and Stellar Staff of the Quarter in 2011.

“I believe that God has called me to be a teacher, and I’m grateful that He led me to re-enter the profession after our move to Fulton,” Wentzel said in the program. “Thanks to the Fulton Public School community for allowing me to share my love of learning and love of reading with the children.”

Also Wednesday night, Bartley Elementary volunteers Scott and Laura Ward, and Fulton High School science teacher Lance Bethell were honored with the David W. White Outstanding Service in Education Award.

Seniors Kylie Ferro and Ashley Fogel were named the recipients of $500 scholarships from the Fulton Community Teachers Association. Both Ferro and Fogel intend to attend Westminster College next year, where they both plan to major in education.

Katherine Cummins can be reached at (573) 826-2418 or katherine@fultonsun.com.

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